The biggest shift in established character norms in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, aside from Colin Farrell doing whatever it is he’s doing, is the Riddler. Though ultimately still a super genius who uses riddles to keep Batman and the GCPD guessing, the Riddler is a truly terrifying figure, straight out of a horror movie. Yes, the real-life Zodiac Killer is a big influence on the character, but Reeves borrows more than a little from John Carpenter’s Halloween, making the Riddler a lot like Michael Myers.
In the very first scene of the movie, someone (we don’t know who right away) watches Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones) playing with his son in their penthouse. We see through the POV of this watcher, recognizing the binocular view. Quickly we realize we’re watching through the point of view of a baddie, and we later learn, it’s the Riddler (Paul Dano).
The opening sequence of John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece Halloween is a Steadicam POV shot from the point of view of some unseen watcher. Part of the way through this figure walking through the house with a pair of teenage lovers in it, a hand picks up a clown Halloween mask. For the rest of the sequence, we see through the eyeholes of the mask, which looks not unlike the Riddler’s binocular view.
Now you’re very likely thinking this is a bit of a stretch. Lots of movies have binocular POV shots. If it were only this one thing, I obviously wouldn’t have much of a case. But it’s not merely a coincidence, but a trend, friends.
Shortly into that same sequence, the action cuts to inside Mitchell’s penthouse as he watches news about his own reelection bid. He paces around and drinks bourbon or whatever. We then get a wide shot and we can see behind Mitchell a completely darkened other room. Slowly but suddenly, we see the Riddler, in full masked, lurking glory, appear out of the shadows, waiting for the moment to strike. He brutally beats Mitchell to death with an implement that ends up being very important to the plot.
This moment elicits an “Oh, sh*t” from the audience. We can see the impending doom of this character before they do. It’s a moment that directly mirrors a moment toward the end of Halloween in which Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) tries to catch her breath in a kitchen only for the Shape to appear out of the shadowy doorway behind her. It’s an effect that makes it seem like Michael Myers is the shadows, which Reeves is able to replicate in The Batman.
As if this weren’t enough, Reeves has the Riddler play one more Michael Myers cover a bit later in the movie. District Attorney Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard) stumbles back to his car after a night of drink and drugs at the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge. He clumsily offers to take Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) home, but luckily for her, she refuses. When he gets in, Gil notices the windows and windshield are all fogged up. Confused, he wipes a bit of it off and is too intoxicated to realize he’s not alone. The Riddler sits up in the backseat and grabs him.
This scene is unmistakable. An identical scene plays out in Halloween. Annie (Nancy Loomis) obliviously walks to her car to go get her boyfriend Paul. She forgets something and goes back in the house, but has left the door unlocked. When she returns, the windshield is suddenly all fogged up. She wipes a bit of it off but it’s too late. The Shape pops up from the backseat and grabs her. He attempts to strangle her, but when that proves difficult, the murderer cuts Annie’s throat.
Though these are the main references I spotted, there’s one more, subtler homage to Michael Myers. Way toward the end of The Batman, the Riddler allows the cops to catch him in a coffee shop. For the entire movie, we’ve only ever seen the Riddler in his monstrous, masked-up guise. But in the coffee shop, he has no mask. The cops pile in and Reeves holds off on showing us the Riddler’s true face for a good long while. And once the audience finally sees him…he’s just a guy. Nothing special about him at all. But because he has been a nigh-faceless creature for the entire runtime, it plays as a shock moment.
John Carpenter did the same thing at the end of Halloween. After Michael Myers manages to survive a number of stabbings, he grabs Laurie in a darkened upstairs landing. During a struggle, she pulls off his mask. For just a moment, the true Michael Myers is in the light. Audiences gasp. But, aside from a wounded eye (courtesy of Laurie and a wire coat hanger), Michael Myers isn’t a monster; he’s just a young dude. He might even be handsome under other circumstances.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman is all about masks, both literal and figurative, that obscure our characters’ true selves, and Gotham City’s true underbelly. Masks of civility, masks of brutality. For Michael Myers in Halloween, the mask is his true self. Just like the Riddler, and chiefly, just like Batman. The John Carpenter references in The Batman aren’t merely hollow nods, but reinforce all of the themes at the story’s center. Plus, they’re scary as hell.